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Mobile data satisfaction plummets in SA

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The latest South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi) for Mobile Data Service Providers reveals that South African consumers express low levels of loyalty to their mobile data service providers and are generally disappointed with the service they receive from them.

Customer loyalty trends have shown a consistent decline over the past three annual indices, with the industry average declining from 71.1% in 2014 to 59.2% in 2016.

MTN’s customers show the lowest loyalty to their brand with a score of 54.7%, down almost 10% from 2015, followed by Telkom Mobile at 59.2% compared to 67.7% last year. Cell C and Vodacom compare well with the customer loyalty industry average (59.2%) with scores of 61% and 61.6% respectively, albeit low in comparison to other industries measured in the SAcsi.

“South Africans are limited to a handful of mobile data service providers who are among the most expensive in the world. This frustration is evident in the ongoing #DataMustFall movement that adds impetus to the views that South Africans have held for years: they feel ripped off by high data costs, and will move to a more cost-effective service provider without hesitation,” says Prof Adré Schreuder, CEO of Consulta.

This is further indicated in the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is calculated as the difference between the percentage of promoters or customers who recommended your brand, and detractors or customers who did not recommend your brand. The NPS yielded an industry average of 1%. Telkom received the lowest sentiment with a score of -9%, followed closely by MTN at -4% with Cell C narrowly above the industry average at 2%. Vodacom received a score of 9%.

The 2016 SAcsi for Mobile Data Service Providers benchmarks customer satisfaction through an internationally recognised model to achieve an overall result out of 100. The index provides a weighted average of the various aspects of a customer’s experience with the mobile data service provider, and the degree to which the product or service has met, fallen short of, or exceeded their expectations.

The data returned in this index reveals some of the lowest sets of scores across the SAcsi industries surveyed by Consulta this year.

The average industry score for the 2016 SAcsi Mobile Data Service Providers is 67.8 out of a score of 100. A score below 70 on the SAcsi is deemed low. The SAcsi score has continued declining over the past three years, this year MTN received the lowest score at 65.9 followed by Cell C (66.2), Telkom Mobile (68.2), with Vodacom marginally leading the industry average with a score of 69.7.

When it comes to customer expectations, the index reveals Vodacom customers expect the most of their supplier with a score of 76.0, above the industry average of 74.2. Telkom Mobile and MTN are on par with the industry average while Cell C customers expect a lower level of service at 70.4.

Looking at the ability of mobile network providers to deliver the services they promise, Cell C came the closest to delivering on this. Cell C also obtained the lowest percentage of customer complaints and the highest score for successfully handling customer problems and complaints. Telkom Mobile and MTN customers experienced the largest service delivery gap, indicating that these service providers are not living up to customer’s expectations to the degree that Cell C customers reported.

“It seems that Cell C is the only brand not creating unrealistic expectations that they are unable to meet,” says Schreuder. “Telkom Mobile’s low score may be linked to its recent uncapped LTE promotion, which it released without fully explaining the fair-use policy attached to the offer.”

The provision of mobile data is a fast moving and highly competitive industry. The service provider that is able to address the reasons for the continuous decline in customer satisfaction and service delivery, will be able minimise customer churn and regain customer loyalty.

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Crouching Yeti strikes

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Kaspersky Lab has uncovered infrastructure used by the Russian-speaking APT group Crouching Yeti, also known as Energetic Bear, which includes compromised servers across the world.

According to the research, numerous servers in different countries were hit since 2016, sometimes in order to gain access to other resources. Others, including those hosting Russian websites, were used as watering holes.

Crouching Yeti is a Russian-speaking advanced persistent threat (APT) group that Kaspersky Lab has been tracking since 2010. It is best known for targeting industrial sectors around the world, with a primary focus on energy facilities, for the main purpose of stealing valuable data from victim systems. One of the techniques the group has been widely using is through watering hole attacks: the attackers injected websites with a link redirecting visitors to a malicious server.

Recently Kaspersky Lab has discovered a number of servers, compromised by the group, belonging to different organisations based in Russia, the U.S., Turkey and European countries, and not limited to industrial companies. According to researchers, they were hit in 2016 and 2017 with different purposes. Thus, besides watering hole, in some cases they were used as intermediaries to conduct attacks on other resources.

In the process of analysing infected servers, researchers identified numerous websites and servers used by organisations in Russia, U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America that the attackers had scanned with various tools, possibly to find a server that could be used to establish a foothold for hosting the attackers’ tools and to subsequently develop an attack. Some of the sites scanned may have been of interest to the attackers as candidates for waterhole. The range of websites and servers that captured the attention of the intruders is extensive. Kaspersky Lab researchers found that the attackers had scanned numerous websites of different types, including online stores and services, public organisations, NGOs, manufacturing, etc.

Also, experts found that the group used publicly available malicious tools, designed for analyzing servers, and for seeking out and collecting information. In addition, a modified sshd file with a preinstalled backdoor was discovered. This was used to replace the original file and could be authorised with a ‘master password’.

“Crouching Yeti is a notorious Russian-speaking group that has been active for many years and is still successfully targeting industrial organisations through watering hole attacks, among other techniques. Our findings show that the group compromised servers not only for establishing watering holes, but also for further scanning, and they actively used open-sourced tools that made it much harder to identify them afterwards,” said Vladimir Dashchenko, Head of Vulnerability Research Group at Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT.

“The group’s activities, such as initial data collection, the theft of authentication data, and the scanning of resources, are used to launch further attacks. The diversity of infected servers and scanned resources suggests the group may operate in the interests of the third parties,” he added.

Kaspersky Lab recommends that organisations implement a comprehensive framework against advanced threats comprising of dedicated security solutions for targeted attack detection and incident response, along with expert services and threat intelligence. As a part of Kaspersky Threat Management and Defense, our anti-targeted attack platform detects an attack at early stages by analysing suspicious network activity, while Kaspersky EDR brings improved endpoint visibility, investigation capabilities and response automation. These are enhanced with global threat intelligence and Kaspersky Lab’s expert services with specialisation in threat hunting and incident response.

More details on this recent Crouching Yeti activity can be found on the Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT website.

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R5m in software fines

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South African companies paid almost R5.2 million in damages for using unlicensed software in 2017 up from R3.6 million in 2016.

This is according to data from BSA | The Software Alliance, a non-profit, global trade association created to advance the goals of the software industry and its hardware partners.

The significant increase in unlicensed software payments – which includes settlements as well as the cost of acquiring new software to become compliant – is the result of more accurate leads from informers, says Darren Olivier, Partner at Adams & Adams, legal counsel for BSA. In 2017 BSA received 281 reports in South Africa alleging the use of unlicensed software products of BSA member companies – this up considerably up from 230 leads in 2016.

“BSA’s recent social media campaign also helped to create awareness among local companies about the need to comply with existing legislation in order to avoid legal action,” Olivier says.

The result has been a 13% increase in settlements paid in 2017, with the settlements total reaching almost R2.5 million.

While the average settlement paid by companies in 2017 was around R36 094, in some cases the amount owed was far greater, as is evidenced by Shereno Printers, a print and design company based in Gauteng, which ended up paying a hefty settlement amount of R260 000 last year in an out of court settlement.

The company’s case was in line with a broader trend, which saw the print and design industry as a whole rank among the top sectors plagued by unlicensed software.

Aside from settlements, companies also paid more than R2.6 million in licenses purchased to legalise their unlicensed software.

And the ramifications of software piracy extend beyond financial implications. “It also results in potential job losses and loss in tax revenue. This is not to mention the financial and reputational damage brought about by security breaches and lost data,” comments Olivier.

As unlicensed software has not been updated with the latest security features, it leaves businesses vulnerable to cyberattack, he explains.

This is a particular problem for companies operating in South Africa where economic crime has recently reached record levels, according to the Global Economic Crime Survey. Indeed, 77% of South African organisations have experienced some form of economic crime. What’s more, instances of cybercrime totalled 29% of economic crimes reported.

This in turn, raises questions around government policy and the adequacy of existing copyright legislation, which only enables the registration of copyright in films, but not in computer programs.

Olivier notes that it is likely the percentage of unlicensed software on South African computers has increased over the past year. “We received many more leads this year, which is an indicator that the amount of pirated software is greater than in previous years,” he comments.

Often unlicensed software is not so much a case of deliberate piracy as it is a result of poor software asset management (SAM).

“For this reason, the BSA encourages all businesses to ensure they have effective SAM practices in place. Companies should be able to confirm what software they are using and are licensed to use – this will help them to identify unlicensed software and can also bring about cost savings. Even the most basic SAM practices such as regular inventories and software use policies can help,” says Chair of the BSA SA Committee, Billa Coetsee.

With this in mind the BSA offers a range of SAM solutions, not only to help organisations reduce legal and security risks, but also to create business value.

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